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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gallivanting around the Nth Island (Pt 6)

This gallivanting around is taking an awfully long time, what with having to post retorts to cheeky blog commentators!!! :-) Actually, if the truth be known, it is taking a long time because I have far too much to say, and because I take far too many photos and then have a real problem trying to decide which photos to use. It’s a tough life.

So…where were we? Oh yes, Wellington.

Wellington, as I’ve mentioned, is the capital of NZ. Actually, parliament moved from Auckland to Wellington in 1865 (many think that the capital should be back in Auckland where everything happens! I say this with tongue in cheek, as almost everybody who lives outside of Akl already think that Aucklanders have an inflated sense of Auckland-ego…quite true, quite true, but then it does have EVERYTHING one needs as a city! This should give all non-Kiwis a peek into the passionate regional loyalty which grips our country….)

Anyway. The capital city is home to NZ’s parliament. One part of the Parliamentary precinct houses the Executive wing, in what is known as the “Beehive”….because that is what the building resembles. An oversized beehive. The beehive was a British architect’s answer to Parliament’s aging buildings and lack of space. Some hailed it as a national icon, and others as an eyesore. You decide.

The tour of the Parliamentary buildings was fascinating. We didn’t get to see any of the more lugubrious places which are known to exist therein, such as the swimming pool or the flash restaurant (‘Bellamys’)…but then, our hardworking Parliamentarians don’t have time for such frivolities anyway… We saw other things like the library, the grand ballroom, and the debating chamber, and all the other places where tough work is carried out.
In 1907,a huge fire razed most of the Parliamentary precinct and took with it, many beautiful national treasures. The place was gradually rebuilt. In 1991 architects and engineers began NZ’s biggest project – designing and strengthening the buildings to enable them to survive the many earthquakes that happen in Wellington each year, as well as the potentially Big One. Of particular concern, was the presence of the Wellington Fault within 400m of the site. Our family voted this as the most interesting part of the tour (a fact I noted with personal astonishment, since earthquake engineering doesn’t usually feature high on our list of interests!). The interesting part was that Parliament buildings had to be separated from their original foundations (pretty solid as you might imagine!) and placed on more than 400 rubber bearings. Called “base isolation technique”. Essentially, the buildings become like a stiff box on top of horizontally flexible supports. Fascinating technology. The flexible lead-rubber bearings allow the building to move up to 300mm sideways, and also act as shock absorbers in the event of an earthquake. Needless to say, the inventor of this novel technology has since gone on to develop this work in other earthquake-prone areas of the world.

Enough on the Parliament buildings, except to say, that wee L thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the Chairperson’s seat in a Select Committee hearing chamber, and the tour guide told him that he did a great job! I think L is a bit cuter than the present Chairperson of that committee, no slight intended!
The Wellington Tram car which takes you up from Lambton Quay in the city to the top of the Wellington Botanical gardens is an icon in itself. It’s been there ever since I can remember…..forever it would seem! Begun in the days when the trolley buses ran the streets, it has now become a tourist thing to do. So we did it.

I think it’s time to leave Wellington now.
But first, a stop at Weta Studios – the home of animation, and made world famous by providing the amazingly intricate costumes and animation in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings”. The studio has been part of the NZ film industry for yonks, making the sets and costumes for many well known films including “Narnia”, “Jane and the Dragon” etc. Needless to say, it was all totally fascinating, but I’ve waxed lyrical for long enough.

Today it is a wet and stormy day here in Akl. The weather forecasters warned people not to travel this weekend if they don’t have to. Heavy rain and winds of up to 120kmph were forecast but it doesn’t seem quite as bad as all that here in Akl…..yet. Perhaps the worst is yet to come. We are all enjoying the opportunity to have a day at home, before heading out for dinner tonight – warm, dry, fresh baking, music, lights on inside, dark outside……mmmm…what a treat!
I love it!


Ange of the North said...

Your house sounds as perfect as Becky's. With your own set of super-cute children! Enjoy the rain (did I just say that???)! xox

Southern Ange said...

My house is a perfect mess, but thanks for the vote of confidence! I'm not sure that I (nor my family) could cope with being a Becky. But I DO have some very cute boys (unbiased as I am)!!! Thanks! :-)

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